Harlequins wing Chris Ashton says a two-week break is “the last thing teams want” after the European cups were suspended because of coronavirus.
England’s Premiership rejected suggestions to bring domestic fixtures forward to fill the gap left by the Heineken Champions Cup and European Challenge Cup.
The league said the decision was made to protect players’ welfare.
“It’s not ideal for us as players,” Ashton said on Rugby Union Weekly.
“We were due to play anyway so I don’t think it matters what competition it is. The last thing teams want is to go two weekends without a game. It keeps everyone fit and firing.”
The decision to postpone European fixtures scheduled for the weekends of 16 and 23 January came after the French government decreed its clubs should not play in the competitions this month.
It leaves a two-week gap in a packed rugby schedule this season. Once England’s domestic league restarts on 29 January, there are 22 weeks of rugby looming for any club that makes it to the Premiership and European finals.
It is not yet clear when the two rounds of postponed European pool games will take place.
The tournament has four more weekends in the calendar, with two earmarked for quarter-finals played across two legs, one for semi-finals and one for finals.
Premiership chief executive Darren Childs said of the decision to keep domestic fixtures as they are: “The welfare of everyone involved in Premiership Rugby is crucial to us and this break in the season gives us the chance to hand some much-needed rest to our hard-working players, management, staff and match officials.”
But former England wing Ugo Monye said this decision “does not make sense”.
“I understand that players and coaches need rest but they were meant to be playing this weekend,” he added.
“The calendar was set ages ago. Everyone signed up to it. You have got two competitions perfectly fit into a congested calendar, you have to consider the impact that your decision domestically could have on another competition.”
‘Premiership will be in the shadow of the Six Nations’ – Analysis
BBC rugby union correspondent Chris Jones
A number of club bosses – such as Pat Lam at Bristol and Exeter’s Rob Baxter – urged the Premiership to play matches over the next two weekends not just to free up space later on in the congested calendar, but also to ensure international players would be available for more league games before they go off to play in the Six Nations.
While this argument makes sense, it is clear there was not unanimous agreement from all the clubs, while sources have also indicated the league was keen to lessen the burden on the emergency services by not having games for a couple of weeks.
Either way, the bulk of the Premiership season from now on will take place in the shadow of the Six Nations – assuming that goes ahead as planned in February and March.
Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl will manage Tuesday’s game against West Ham from home after a member of his household tested positive for coronavirus.
The club said the 53-year-old “is currently self-isolating while we assess the situation further”.
Hasenhuttl will contact the team and coaching staff throughout the game via a video and audio link.
Southampton made the announcement three hours and 15 minutes before kick-off.
Southampton defender Jannik Vestergaard could be out for up to four weeks with a knee injury.
Oriol Romeu is available having missed Saints’ Boxing Day draw with Fulham due to suspension.
West Ham may make changes after manager David Moyes admitted he got his team selection wrong against Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday.
Forward Michail Antonio has returned to training following a hamstring problem.
Southampton were a bit subdued in their draw with Fulham, but they were missing some key men in Oriol Romeu, Jannik Vestergaard and Danny Ings.
I was a little bit surprised by the West Ham team that David Moyes put out against Brighton, and they didn’t start well either.
The Hammers still got something out of that game, but I think they will find things a lot harder against Saints.
- West Ham have won the last five Premier League matches against West Ham.
- Southampton have lost the last two home Premier League games, matching their total number of defeats from the previous 15 meetings.
- Three of Southampton’s four Premier League defeats this year have come at home.
- Southampton have failed to win their last game of the calendar year for nine consecutive seasons.
- Saints have kept seven clean sheets in their 16 Premier League home games.
- They could go three league games without scoring for the first time since 2018 under Mark Hughes.
- Southampton’s last eight Premier League goals have been scored by eight different players.
- Ryan Bertrand is one appearance short of 200 in the Premier League for Saints.
- West Ham have only won one of their last five Premier League games, drawing two and losing two.
- Their only victory in their final game of the last 11 calendar years came against Southampton in 2015.
- The Hammers have scored in nine of their last 10 away games.
- Tomas Soucek has scored a league-high five goals from corners since the start of July.
- David Moyes has lost just two of his 14 Premier League matches as a manager against Southampton, winning six and drawing six.
Two-thirds of London’s boroughs
A man who recruited his parents and a group of his friends to kill a love rival has been jailed for life.
Daniel Grogan, 20, was “consumed with hatred and jealousy” of Jay Sewell, 18, after finding out he was seeing his ex-girlfriend, the Old Bailey heard.
Mr Sewell was attacked by a group of people in Lee, south-east London, on 11 December 2018.
Grogan was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 21 years having previously been found guilty of murder.
The court was told Grogan deliberately engineered a stand-off with Mr Sewell and his ex-girlfriend Gemma Hodder near to his family home.
Ms Hodder, 18, had driven her partner and some of their friends from Kent to see Grogan when they were set upon by a group armed with knives, hammers, a 4ft (1.2m) fireman’s axe and wooden sticks.
Mr Sewell was fatally attacked through the car window while his friend Charlie Pamphlett was stabbed in the back but survived, jurors were told.
Judge Wendy Joseph QC said Grogan “desired only revenge on Gemma and Jay” and had been driven by “self serving anger beyond logic”.
The 20-year-old was also jailed for five years for wounding with intent and three-and-a-half years for violent disorder, with the sentences to be served concurrently.
Other members of Grogan’s family and friends also received jail sentences for their parts in the killing:
- Grogan’s 58-year-old father Robert, who had armed himself with an axe, was sentenced to 14.5 years for manslaughter, six years for wounding with intent and three-and-a-half years for violent disorder
- His 55-year-old mother Ann was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years for manslaughter and three-and-a-half years for violent disorder to be served concurrently
- His friend and neighbour Charlie Dudley, 26, of Grove Park, was jailed for 16 years for manslaughter, six-and-a-half years for wounding with intent and three-and-a-half years for violent disorder, to be served concurrently
- His cousin Liam Hickey, 19, of Eltham, was sentenced to three years detention in a Young Offenders Institution for wounding with intent and two years for violent disorder, to be served concurrently
In an impact statement read in court, Mr Sewell’s mother Sharon Louch said there was “no sentence this court or any other can pass which can come close to healing the pain or make up for not being able to look at my Jay’s face or hear him laugh”.
“Jay you were a blessing and made us proud from the day you came to us until the moment you were taken,” she said.
Others were previously sentenced over the attack:
- Francesca Grogan, 30, of Sibthorpe Road, was jailed for 12 months for violent disorder
- Jamie Bennett, 32, of Sibthorpe Road, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for violent disorder
- A 17-year-old boy, who cannot be named, was handed a nine-month rehabilitation order and a supervision order for violent disorder.
A mother was stabbed three times in front of her child in an unprovoked attack in south London.
The victim, 36, was pushing her child in a buggy when a man attacked her from behind in Downton Avenue, Streatham Hill, on Monday.
The knifeman did not speak to the victim before he stabbed her at about 17:20 GMT then ran off.
Police said the woman’s injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. The child was not hurt.
Neighbours told the BBC they heard the woman screaming and came out to help.
A man first on the scene said the victim told him: “I’ve been mugged.”
Two people said the wounds looked as if they were to the victim’s face or head area.
It is understood the woman was on the phone to her husband at the time and that he arrived soon afterwards.
No-one has been arrested. The Met said the suspect was a black man, about 6ft tall and wearing dark clothing.
Officers have been examining CCTV footage and are appealing for witnesses.
Christmas dinners have been served to Londoners who are reliant on the city’s homelessness services.
Hairdressers and opticians were also made available at City Hall before guests were given a three-course meal.
Last year, 8,855 people were seen rough sleeping in London, an 18% increase since last year, and more than double the number in 2010.
“Events like this help bring a sense of community back in to London,” Claire, a former rough sleeper, told the BBC.
Claire, who spent 30 years either living on the streets or in prison, said: “It’s the type of event that does matter. It forms partnerships and builds bonds.
“If it wasn’t for the support of St Mungo’s, I’d either be dead or doing what I was before.”
Guests were chosen from the thousands of Londoners that currently receive assistance from services funded by City Hall and delivered by charities St Mungo’s and Thames Reach.
But Claire said services were still “hit and miss”.
“Where I live I’m still waiting for support with my mental health,” she added.
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “St Mungo’s and Thames Reach are struggling with finances.
“Since I became mayor we’ve more than doubled the amount of money we’ve spent on rough sleeping and the size of our outreach team.
“But we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve not got the money or the resources to do much more – as it is I’m criticised for going outside my remit and my power.
“It is both heartbreaking and shameful that in one of the richest cities in the world we still have the levels rough sleeping that we do.”
Last year 15,470 people were accepted as being homeless by London councils.
There were 55,000 families living in temporary accommodation, such as bed and breakfasts and hostels.
Hundreds more people are estimated to be sleeping on London’s night buses.
Petra Salva, Director of Rough Sleeper Services at St Mungo’s, said: “It’s wonderful that the Mayor has opened the doors of City Hall for this festive event.
“Christmas can be a time of mixed emotions for clients in our services and our staff work hard to support those who stay with us over the holiday period.”